Thursday, August 11, 2016

What I Watched in July

July was a busy month with much travel and fun to be had but I still felt the pull of the theater. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is a fine attempt at getting a film closer to the original character Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined. I think the film is well cast and the historical story they chose for the plot is fascinating. My only real complaints are that Tarzan needed more to do in the story and that some of the humor felt a bit out of place. Some of this I ascribe to the choice of Sam Jackson in a pivotal role. It seems that as the years go on filmmakers want to have Jackson in their movie instead of having the man play a character. The moments when it feels like Jackson the actor is onscreen instead of the character he is playing took me out of the film. The rest was lovely and I would love to see this Tarzan and Jan return for more adventures. It won't happen, but I can dream.

It's the summer and therefore the perfect time for a shark movie! Luckily we have a winner this year and not another useless Sharknado waste of time. THE SHALLOWS is a tight, effective shark vs. human tale that plays out very well from start to finish. The setup is clear, clever and easily makes us sympathetic to the main character. Actress Blake Lively is excellent in the role and the film never has her act in an idiotic way to create tension. She is placed in a terrible situation in a manner that could not have been foreseen and she handles each new problem with intelligence and skills. I was surprised by the smart way the film is written and directed and recommend this to anyone in the mood for a tense, exciting 'animal attacks' movie.

I'd love it if the new GHOSTBUSTERS was good - I might even have some fun with it if it were bad.-  But it turns out to just be pretty damned 'meh'. I cannot figure out what the hell happened here. I think all four of the lead actresses are very funny ladies but only two of them are really given anything funny to do. Those two - Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones  - are often damned funny but they are the only legitimate laughs the film can manage. For some reason it was decided to give the incredibly talented Kristen Wiig the role of straight man which effectively sidelines the brilliant comedienne from the beginning. Why in the name of funny would you do that? Ugh! There are moments of interest and McKinnon certainly gets to shine as the slightly crazed brain of the team but the only things I really remember weeks later are the cameos. Those were fun even if they just occasionally goosed a flat script that needed a lot more laughs. Maybe it's not a good idea to rope your talented cast too tightly to a so-so script.

Defying all cinematic logic THE PURGE films just get more entertaining with each new entry. The latest is a slam-bang action/horror ride that brings back Frank Grillo's character from the previous movie as he now works to protect the only American politician brave enough to stand for ending the annual Purge Night. Of course, the powers that be can't allow this Senator's movement to gain steam so they arrange to have her and her fellow travelers taken out in this year's event. The movie turns into a chase film that ends in by linking the Senator to an underground group with a plan to take out some one percenters themselves. This is exactly the way a good exploitation film should be made - tense, fast, nasty and layered with a harsh social message you'd have to be blind to miss. Roger Corman would be proud!

HIGH SCOOL HELLCATS (1958) - 6 (female high school delinquents)
THE 300 SPARTANS (1962) - 7 (a little stiff but good telling of the Greek story)
THUNDERBALL (1965) - 7 (rewatch)
THE SHALLOWS (2016) - 8
HOWLING III: THE MARSUPIALS (1987) - 2 (you only thought 2 was bad!)
EL LATIGO (a.k.a. THE WHIP) (1978)- 6 (Mexican pseudo-Zorro adventure)
EL LATIGO CONTRA SATANS (1979)- 6 (basically  Zorro vs. Satan)
DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968) - 8 (woo hoo!)
BLACK MAGIC (1949) - 8 (Orson Wells as Cagliostro)
BEWARE, MY LOVELY (1952) - 7 (tense, one location suspense tale)
THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977) - 3 (just embarrassing)
JUST DESSERTS (2007) - 9 (rewatch) (brilliant CREEPSHOW doc)
GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)- 5 (not terrible but not good either)
R.O.T.O.R. (1987) - 2 (so bad it hurts and padded out to 90 endless minutes!)
DIABOLICAL SHUDDER (1972)- 6 (creepy cult goings-on in a modern day castle)
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016) - 8 (best one yet)
THE BABYSITTER (1980) - 6 (well done TV movie thriller)
JAWS (1975) - 10 (rewatch)
JAWS 2 (1977) - 7
SUBMISSION OF A WOMAN (1992) - 5 (too long and fairly flat tale of a stalker tormenting a lady)
MANIAC COP (1988) - 7 (rewatch)


Nick Rentz said...

I think you have your months mixed up. Howling 3 was to lightly lit for a horror film. All of the Howling sequels are bad, not just 2, Rod! I'll definitely be checking out the AIP documentary.

Steven Millan said...

With THE LEGEND OF TARZAN doing much better around the world than in America,maybe we will get another cinematic Tarzan and Jane adventure(even if it ends up as a Straight-To-VOD/DVD/Blu ray released film).

Rod Barnett said...

Nick - Yeah, I noticed the month mix up the next morning. Fixed it but.....

And there is a part of me that wants to see the rest of the crappy Howling sequels but there is also a part of me that just suffered through a crappy Howling sequel so I'm not sure which will win out.

Steven- that's good news! I see that it earned $212,000,000 overseas but only 135,000,000 in the states. Interesting.

Nick Rentz said...

I've not enjoyed a single Howling sequel. The worst one is Bad Moon Rising, I think.... That AIP documentary is only on a mst3k set?

Rod Barnett said...

Is Bad Moon Rising also known as The Howling: Reborn? If so, I've seen that one and you're right - it sucked!

And yeah -the AIP doc is only on that MST3K set right now. The good news is that it is part one of two and eventually the second one will be released. This one goes through the early 1970's and the second will cover their output and history through 1979.

Nick Rentz said...

I'm sorry Rod. It's actually Howling 7 New Moon Rising. I'm a CCR fan and that was a Freudian slip. Howling Reborn is the latest entry and some sort of reboot. Regardless, New Moon Rising is a rough sit. What are some of the hardest movies you had to sit through?

Rod Barnett said...

Hard to sit through movies? TOMB OF THE WEREWOLF was hard to get through because it was rough to see Naschy reduced to that level of crap. THE MAGNETIC MONSTER (1953) was very dull and padded to point of nearly switching it off. Most of Larry Buchanan's films are a chore to get through. BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME was a hard watch. THE VISITOR (1979) took some concentration to get through.

Damn! This is depressing me!